The Masked Fan

The NHL Year In Review And One Final MFAN NHL Top Five Power Rank For 12/23/2013!

Marc Elliott

LARSMONT… As we come upon the end of another calendar year in the NHL it is a great time to look back on some of the highlights as well as some of the “low” lights. And really, this is about as unusual a year as you could have. Due to the labor lockout what would have been the 2012-2013 season turned into a 48 game schedule that eliminated the “2012” part of that campaign. The season started in late January.  With 34 games missing from the season, we were witness to some things that we might not otherwise have seen. I have to believe that some teams that made the playoffs in the shortened season, might not have in a full 82 game schedule.

And conversely, some clubs that missed out in the shortened year, may have made the cut if the full schedule had taken place. In the Eastern Conference you had teams in the NY Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs getting in at the expense of a couple of clubs like the NJ Devils and the Philly Flyers. The prior 2 may have taken advantage of a 48 game blitzkrieg to get in while the 2 veteran clubs didn’t have enough time to establish their game to make it. You could argue the Devs and Flyers had troubles between the pipes too.

In the West I believe the teams that got in were probably the ones that should have, however, you had a 4 team race for the 8th spot, eventually won by the Minnesota Wild, over Columbus, Phoenix and Dallas. All four have been in some stage of a rebuild-retool in the recent past and the Wild had to hold off a late charge from Columbus to keep the 8 spot. To that end the Wild returned to the Stanley Cup tourney for the first time in 5 years and drew the number one overall seed, the Chicago Blackhawk’s, who also became the eventual Cup Champ. The Wild bowed out in a not very close 5 game series.

In looking back on the year, lets do it in an ugly, bad, and the good format so as to end on a high note. The NHL Department of Player safety, still in it’s early stages, had a tough year. I believe the overall mission of this office is to ultimately change player behavior for the better, lets just say they had their hands full. Brendan Shanahan and his staff handed out multiple suspensions and fines in this year.

In the lockout shortened 2013 season there were 22 suspensions and 10 “fines only” dished out. The most egregious of the suspendable acts was most likely the hit on Jarret Stoll of the LA Kings by the San Jose Sharks Raffi Torres. This occurred in a 2nd round playoff game and Torres was suspended for the remainder of the tourney, which, since the Sharks lost out, turned out to be a 6 game total. This had the potential to turn into a 20 game suspend, and since this player hadn’t seemed to be getting the message from a prior 25 game  boot, probably wasn’t enough. The largest fine, $100k, went to the Sharks for their GM’s comments about Torres situation.
For the somewhat still young 2013-2014 year we have already seen 7 preseason, 22 regular season suspends, and 6 fines. And it is just coming up on the Holidays! The ugliest event was easily the Shawn Thornton attack on Brooks Orpik which I chronicled recently. This season could see perhaps 50 suspensions by seasons end. All I can say without going in-depth on what is going on is this; we will view 2 weeks of the finest hockey played in the world in less then 2 months. The Olympic games will have games played by the best of the best and you will see no fist fights, no violent head shots, or any other kind of “hockey crap”.

There will be beautiful flow, seamless plays, strategy and skill on full display. The guys that pull all of the crud you see in the show won’t be anywhere near Sochi for those 2 weeks. I believe the NHL can get their product to that point too, but they need to speed it up. If youth hockey in North America is seeing enrollment challenges, they need to look no farther then the impact that the ugly incidents in the NHL play, along with other issues like costs, injuries and so forth. The NHL is still wringing their hands on cleaning up their product and we are getting no leadership from them on this. C’mon Gary. Roll up your sleeves.

For the good, even after a short campaign, the Cup tourney was epic. In the East 2 series in the quarters went to 7 games, while a 3rd went to 6. The Rangers beat the Caps, and the Bruins beat the Leafs in 7, and the Pengwah and Isles went 6. However, the remainder of the East playoff wasn’t as exciting. The semi’s both went only 5 games, and the East final between the Bruins and Pens featured some close games but was a 4 game sweep by the Bruins. The West had one seven gamer in the 1st round with the Wings over the favored Ducks. The West semi’s though both went 7 tilts with the Hawks over the Wings after being down 3-1 in the series and the Kings over the Sharks. The Hawks walked over a tired Kings club in a short 5 gamer.

The Cup final between the Bruins and Hawks was the 1st time since 1979 with 2 Original Six clubs. They split 2 in Chi-town, with the 1st game going to the Hawks in 3OT. Then they split in Bean-town and the Hawks decided to put the Bruins in their ice-vise and took games 5 and 6 to win the Cup. As always Chicago honors it’s Champions in a first class manner and the parade was huge. Late in the year the league signed it’s biggest TV deal in it’s history, which should solidify the economic health of the game of years to come. Now, if we could only get the “hockey doctor” to do something about the on-ice product we could be on our way! PEACE

THE MFAN NHL TOP five power rank for 12/23/2013;
1. LA KING… rookie goalie on record 8-0 streak, team 9-1 in L10...
2. ANAHEIM DUCK… 8-0-2 in L10 with 8 game win streak…
3. PITTSBURGH PENGWAH… 9-1 L10 and a 7 game win streak…
4. VANCOUVER CANUCK… 8-1-1 L10, playing formidable hockey now…
5. CHICAGO BLACKHAWK… faltering recently, still near top of NHL in points…


Marc Elliott is a free lance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott recently wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.